Let bears be bears | AspenTimes.com

Let bears be bears

Dear Editor:

Regarding the bear incident at the Aspen Saturday Market and our current response to these situations:

In the past hundred years, there have been three people killed in Colorado by bears, and most would say that in two out of the three cases, the humans may have been largely at fault.

Fatal bear attacks in Colorado are as follows:

• Donna Munson, 74, female; Aug. 6, 2009; Ouray; known to have been actively feeding bears.

• Colin McClelland, 24, male; Aug. 10, 1993; Fremont County; at home in trailer – bear provoked.

• John Richardson, 31, male; July 25, 1971; camping near Rocky Mountain National Park, starving bear.

Although bear attacks in general are on the rise, I would argue that the vast majority – if not all – of these are directly related to a hungry bear seeking food – a bear perched in a downtown tree during the day if left alone will not seek to harm any people or pets. It will come down of its own accord and exit by the fastest route possible. It is only when a crowd of people gathers that the bear then gets nervous and panics. Placing yellow police tape around the area only serves to attract unneeded attention – well-stationed officers with crowd-control skills are all that is necessary.

I am not an expert, but according to Colorado Division of Wildlife black bear researcher Tom Beck (retired) with 25 years of bear behavior and ecology experience, “If the bear is just wandering along, then just leave it alone and don’t call anybody. Bears are pretty darn good at getting themselves out of trees by themselves and even out of town. The worst possible thing to do is to become part of a crowd forming around the bear. Now you have created a very stressed-out and unpredictable bear.”

Maybe we should rethink our current policy on downtown bears and, instead of cordoning them off, concentrate on dispersing the people away from the bears and educating them as to why what they are doing is in fact wrong and possibly harming and/or even causing the necessity of putting the bear down. Along with their other weapons, our police officers should be armed with brochures and pamphlets and a greater understanding of the situation than the average tourist wanting “to just get a look at” a bear stuck in a tree.

Ultimately, of course, it is we humans who are the real cause of all these problems by our careless and ignorant behavior in letting any bear get accustomed to human food sources, whether it be from our garbage practices or our intentional feeding of wildlife.

I encourage everyone to find out all they can about this – a good place to start is the Colorado Department of Wildlife at http://wildlife.state.co.us.

Boyd Billings


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